Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Friends By Coincidence

So, you gonna eat tonight or what?”

Just like that, you’re talk­ing about din­ner?”

Yeah.” William fin­ished off his beer and turned around to get anoth­er from Hernandez’s refrig­er­a­tor. “Just like that.”

You’re as bad as my grand­moth­er.”

She a big beer drinker?”

Right. Food. Everything is about food. Feel bad? Have some food. Cold out­side? Have some food. Bit by a dog? Have some food.”

William crossed the liv­ing room and fold­ed him­self back into the couch, “So, when do we eat?”

I can’t eat today.” And he turned the game back on.

William felt the beer kick­ing in. He need­ed food soon or he would drink him­self sick. He real­ized he real­ly didn’t get Hernandez. He felt like a friend by coin­ci­dence. And, then again, Hernandez didn’t get him either. Maybe that’s what made him start talk­ing or maybe it was just the beer. “Luke and I found Tommy before the cops. I stuck my fin­gers into his throat try­ing to find his pulse the way they showed us in school. No pulse, but some blood. We freaked out. I think Luke punched me in the arm and I know I pushed him down into the dirt. We were foul-mouthed kids so we swore a lot too, but I don’t remem­ber either of us say­ing any­thing that made any sense until we were down at the canal. We ran the whole way. A mile or a mile and a half. I jumped into the canal even though it was pret­ty low and I got more mud­dy than clean, but at least the blood wasn’t on my hand and my head was wet. Luke just watched me. Later, we called the cops and they made us take them back to Tommy. Right up to him, because it was get­ting dark and they didn’t know their way through the orchard the way we did.”

Hernandez had mut­ed the tele­vi­sion and then turned it off dur­ing William’s sto­ry. “Was there a lot of blood? Around the body?”

No. It was dry.”

Was he cold when you touched him?”

A lit­tle. But it was a pret­ty warm day.”

How close to the road was he? Did some­one dri­ve him there or car­ry him?”

I guess maybe they car­ried him. It was after they irri­gat­ed this big Walnut orchard. Maybe a week or two after, so it was dry, but it was also flat not rough and tilled between the trees. It’s almost like pave­ment, you wouldn’t see foot­prints too eas­i­ly.” The mem­o­ry began to make him queasy.

Did you hap­pen to notice his body? The low­er half, I mean. Did it look heavy or bloat­ed? Did his pants look tight?”

William’s eyes were closed and all he could see was Tommy’s face fold­ed down over his knees. “His arms were spread out and he was hunched over. Doubled up. It was hard to see his body that way.”

Did he have his shoes on?”

Yeah. I think so.” His stom­ach twist­ed.

Did his legs look spongy or swollen?”

No. I don’t know. He looked thin and wast­ed. He didn’t have any life left in him. I didn’t want to touch him. Or look at him. Why does it mat­ter? Aw shit.” And he got up from the couch and bolt­ed into Hernandez’s bath­room where he puked up all his beer and what looked like a lit­tle of his lunch.

Hernandez fol­lowed him, wait­ing in the short hall­way con­nect­ing the bed­room and bath­room to the rest of the apart­ment. The bath­room door was open so he looked up at the ceil­ing and kept the beer bot­tle close to his face so he would smell beer instead of vom­it. “You all right?”

Yeah. Sorry.”

Don’t wor­ry about it.”

I nev­er even puked when it hap­pened. I don’t know-”

You got­ta puke soon­er or lat­er.” And he walked away. William heard the front door to the apart­ment open.

After he rinsed out his mouth in the sink and splashed water across his face, William looked at him­self in the mir­ror. He couldn’t shake feel­ing like that 12 year old he was, even though he looked almost noth­ing like him now. He went out and found Hernandez sit­ting on the step where Charlie Oliveri sat a few hours before. “So, you just want­ed me to puke or what?”

After a long pause, Hernandez took his head from his hands and spoke. “Your friend and this kid today were killed and left to be found the same way.”

That means it was the same guy, right?”

Maybe.”

Maybe?”

It means something’s messed up, William. The whole damn town. That’s all it means right now. Until I know more. The autop­sy reports and every­thing. Until then, it’s just fucked.”